CCNY’s Grove School to Open Entrepreneurship Center

August 21, 2012 | City College

$1 Million Gift From Alumnus Irwin Zahn, ’48, and $440K Grant From Office of Borough President Scott Stringer Support New Facility

Irwin Zahn

Irwin Zahn, '48

The City College of New York’s Grove School of Engineering will open an entrepreneurship center next month that will also serve as a business incubator for aspiring student and faculty entrepreneurs and a resource for local businesses. The facility, to be known as the Zahn Center, is supported by a $1 million gift from the Moxie Foundation, the charity of CCNY alumnus Irwin Zahn, ’48, a $440,000 grant from the Office of Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and the College.

In addition, the Moxie Foundation gift will be used to establish the Zahn Prize for Excellence in Entrepreneurship, a student competition. Both the gift from the Moxie Foundation and the grant from the borough president’s office will be administered by The City College Fund, an independent nonprofit fundraising organization that benefits City College students. The gift and center naming are subject to approval by the CUNY Board of Trustees.

“This major gift and grant will enable our school of engineering to drive innovation and exploration of new technologies through a uniquely designed entrepreneurship program,” said CCNY President Lisa S. Coico in announcing the gift. “On behalf of the entire City College community, I want to thank Irwin Zahn and the Moxie Foundation for their desire to motivate, encourage and grow our students and faculty, and Borough President Stringer for his commitment to help establish this new center, which will benefit the community as well as City College.”

The Zahn Center, to be located in the Grove School, will provide functional, dedicated incubator space, equipment, financial resources, incentives and expert engineering and business guidance for aspiring student entrepreneurs. Its goals are to:
• Promote innovation and entrepreneurship;
• Incentivize young people going into business for themselves, and
• Nurture the building of relationships with existing local industry to assist expansion and growth in the regional community.

Through its activities, the center expects to develop new products at City College for both humanitarian and commercial purposes. Successful products could help support City College in the future, as well. A program the center will establish calls for entities it supports, financially or otherwise, to enter into an agreement whereby they will reimburse or pay royalties to the Grove School if their venture or product becomes a commercial success.

“Engineering studies are not just a learning exercise. The critical thing is to do something with these studies,” said Mr. Zahn, the founder and former CEO of Autosplice, a multinational, custom electronic interconnect solutions provider. “I want to help college students think about problems they can solve in a way where they can benefit from coming up with the solution.”

He started his business in New York and operated it here for 36 years before moving to San Diego in 1990. Established in 1954 as one a one-man company called General Staple, Mr. Zahn grew his company by presciently anticipating new trends in electronics while also addressing vital needs that were not being met.

The company, which he sold in 2011, competes in the global industrial, consumer, transportation, medical, automotive, and telecom markets and has facilities in eight countries around the world besides the United States.

After selling the business, he established the Moxie Foundation, which is dedicated to his philanthropic interests in education and health, and serves as its president; his son, Peter, serves as director and will be integrally involved in the development of the Zahn Center at City College.

Irwin Zahn’s professional affiliations include serving as President of the National Coil Winding Association; President of the New York Chapter of the Coil Winding Association; and Director, San Diego Chapter of the American Electronics Association.

“Mr. Zahn’s gift is symbolic of the ongoing commitment alumni have toward this great institution,” said Elena Sturman, executive director of The City College Fund. “In this case, it reflects not only his recognition of the role the college has played in his career, but Mr. Zahn’s sincere desire to assist those who wish to follow in their footsteps.”

The Zahn Center will broaden student participation in entrepreneurship, noted Dr. Joseph Barba, dean of the Grove School of Engineering. “Students will be able to use the facility to build prototypes and learn how to develop and market their products.” A 1,400-square foot fabrication laboratory, paid for through the $440,000 grant from the Office of Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, will be equipped with 3-D printers, laser printers, computers and test equipment.

“To retain the entrepeneurs and innovators of the future, New York City needs to revolutionize the role universities play in promoting job creation,” Mr. Stringer said. “That is why I am excited to partner with City College in launching the new Zahn Center, an incubator in Northern Manhattan where students and professors can perfect their ideas and move them into the marketplace. The Grove School of Engineering’s new facility will connect creativity with capital and continue New York’s economic expansion as a hub of tech innovation.”

“Borough President Stringer has been a tremendous supporter of City College, especially for capital projects,” added Karen Witherspoon, City College vice president, government and community affairs. “The Zahn Center will be a resource not only for students but also for entrepreneurs from the community since they will be able to have access to the facility, as well.”

Dean Barba called the center a “win-win” for the Grove School and its students. “Even if their products don’t get to market, the experience will make our students more attractive job candidates. In addition, as we engage outside companies to pose problems we can generate greater corporate interaction with the school and build relations with more businesses.”

He added that the Zahn Center would complement the Grove School’s existing entrepreneurship competition, the Kaylie Prize, and that local entrepreneurs would be able to use center facilities for a fee, providing a new ancillary revenue stream for the College.

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